Scientific knowledge seems to be the drive behind industrialization and sophistication of modern society. Continued improvement of information and communication technology (ICT) which span over space and time, ensure that people in modern society have fast access to a vast store of knowledge wherever it may be. Appropriate control mechanisms and search tools help to control information overload so that end users obtain only the required information needed for a specific purpose. Although communication mechanisms of modern society are supposed to ensure equal access, problems arise when science is communicated to traditional societies with the intention to let people from diverse cultures benefit from scientific knowledge. In traditional societies the impact of the oral culture is still very strong and users are heavily dependent on the communication mechanisms of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). These mechanisms served traditional people perfectly well over many generations. Unfortunately they are not compatible with those of modern information systems. To complicate matters it seems that development agencies, which are instrumental in the communication of scientific knowledge to traditional communities, are unaware of the impact of communication mechanisms and use mechanisms unfamiliar to traditional people. A recent investigation of a case study, where maize was successfully grown due to effective communication of scientific knowledge, proved that the peoples` livelihoods improved considerably when appropriate communication mechanisms of IKS were applied to share scientific knowledge. Practical example are used to show how different types of traditional communication mechanisms can be applied to make concepts and/or technology understandable and more acceptable. It is argued that development workers, operating at the grassroots interface, will need to understand and know how to apply communication mechanisms of both IKS and modern systems in order to successfully address cultural diversity and the use of scientific knowledge.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Contributions and challenges of cultural diversity in public communication of science

Hester W J Meyer   University of South Africa

Scientific knowledge seems to be the drive behind industrialization and sophistication of modern society. Continued improvement of information and communication technology (ICT) which span over space and time, ensure that people in modern society have fast access to a vast store of knowledge wherever it may be. Appropriate control mechanisms and search tools help to control information overload so that end users obtain only the required information needed for a specific purpose. Although communication mechanisms of modern society are supposed to ensure equal access, problems arise when science is communicated to traditional societies with the intention to let people from diverse cultures benefit from scientific knowledge. In traditional societies the impact of the oral culture is still very strong and users are heavily dependent on the communication mechanisms of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). These mechanisms served traditional people perfectly well over many generations. Unfortunately they are not compatible with those of modern information systems. To complicate matters it seems that development agencies, which are instrumental in the communication of scientific knowledge to traditional communities, are unaware of the impact of communication mechanisms and use mechanisms unfamiliar to traditional people. A recent investigation of a case study, where maize was successfully grown due to effective communication of scientific knowledge, proved that the peoples` livelihoods improved considerably when appropriate communication mechanisms of IKS were applied to share scientific knowledge. Practical example are used to show how different types of traditional communication mechanisms can be applied to make concepts and/or technology understandable and more acceptable. It is argued that development workers, operating at the grassroots interface, will need to understand and know how to apply communication mechanisms of both IKS and modern systems in order to successfully address cultural diversity and the use of scientific knowledge.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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